A total of 296 lives were lost on Victoria roads last year, the Transport Accident Commission confirmed on 31 December 2023. This marked an increase of 22.8% or 55 deaths, the highest number of deaths in over 15 years, where the death toll on Victorian roads was at 303.
In this blog post, we’ll provide an overview of the statistics behind this tragic number, factors that affected road accidents and some additional tips for keeping safe whenever you’re on the road, at home, or at the workplace.
Statistics of Victoria road deaths in 2023
2023 marked the third consecutive year there was an upward trend in lives lost on Victorian roads since the pandemic. 2020 saw 211 lives taken on the road, while 2021 and 2022 had 234 and 241 fatalities, respectively.
Of the total number of deaths, 123 occurred in Melbourne. All other deaths (173) happened in rural Victoria. This reinforces the fact that regional Australians are more likely to die in road crashes compared to those living in cities.
Nine cyclists lost their lives on the road last year, which was three less than the previous year. There were also five fewer deaths of motorcyclists in 2023, making the number of motorcyclist fatalities at 51. There was a nearly 30% increase in the deaths of drivers from the previous year, from 101 to 130.
More than twice the number of passengers also died on the road bringing the total death count of passengers at 59. 2022 saw 26 deaths, 33 less than the current number.
The 70 and above age group contributed to 57 deaths from the total. The 30 to 39 and 60 to 69 age groups followed that with 46 and 34 deaths, respectively. Tragically, there were four deaths of infants and children aged 4 and below.
According to the TAC, almost 1 in 5 drivers who die on Victorian roads recorded a blood alcohol concentration reading of .05 or higher, which is above the legal driving limit. This statistic, along with other road alcohol safety findings, led to the creation of the latest ‘Stop kidding yourself. If you drink, don’t drive’ campaign.
The campaign, which is plastered across various traditional and new forms of media, seeks to deduce the myth that a person is able to drive if they’ve only had a few drinks or if they consume alcohol accompanied by a big meal.
The truth is that even a little bit of alcohol can impair one’s senses, making daily activities like driving more dangerous.
LEARN MORE: Effects of alcohol on driving
Tracey Slatter, CEO of the TAC, believes that one reason for the high number of drunk drivers on the road is due to misinformation pertaining to alcohol safety. She said, “Many people think they can manage BAC levels by following a set of vague rules handed down through generations, but the only way to avoid the risk entirely is to completely separate drinking and driving”.
Police said that single acts of non-compliance, or people making basic driving errors, contributed to more than half of the fatalities.
Other common causes of crashes include low-range speeding, lower-level drink driving, failure to obey road signs and distractions such as mobile phone usage while driving were common in deadly crashes.
About a quarter of fatal crashes in 2023 were due to extreme behaviours such as driving without a licence, travelling at extreme speeds, high-range drink driving, illicit drug driving or a combination of these behaviours.
Potential solutions to Victoria’s unsafe road usage
From the statistics gathered, we can see that most of these deaths happened on rural roads and involved drivers and passengers aged 60 and above.
Maintenance and upgrade of rural roads
Rural roads tend to be the centre of more road accidents than cities for a number of reasons, including
- Lack of safety infrastructure such as barriers, adequate lighting, or warning signs.
- Limited emergency services.
- More susceptible to weather conditions like flooding or bushfires, which can deteriorate road quality quicker.
- Lower traffic density may make drivers feel more comfortable driving faster.
- Sharp curves, poor visibility and less predictable conditions like wildlife crossings.
- Rural areas often require longer travel distances, leading to driver fatigue.
Fortunately, the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, announced in November that funding for the Roads to Recovery Program will double to a whopping $1 billion annually.
This investment, according to Minister King, will look to support regional communities and help move freight to and from rural production centres. This initiative will also look to improve road conditions in rural areas which will ultimately help make regional and rural roads safer.
Addressing the issue of ageing drivers
Currently, individuals in Victoria are allowed to drive up to any age on the condition that they are medically fit to drive. Drivers are assessed using the AustRoads National Assessing Fitness to Drive Standards. However, VicRoads have reported that older drivers are more vulnerable to being injured or killed in car collisions because, as we age, bodies become frailer and less able to withstand the physical impact of a crash.
The Older Driver Scheme exists in NSW that is reserved for drivers over the age of 75. This age group that wants to maintain an unrestricted license have to complete a medical by their doctor every year to prove that they are fit to drive. If a driver is aged 85 or above, a driving assessment is required to be fulfilled.
Reevaluating older drivers after a certain age may help determine whether or not certain individuals are safe to drive in Victoria.
Breathalysers to help solve drink driving problems
Towards the tail end of 2023, a police operation held on a Monash freeway in Victoria saw officers detect 1 in 73 drivers failing an alcohol breath test.
As mentioned earlier, many of these drivers still believe breathalyser myths and misconceptions.
Debunking these myths will require a long-term investment through the publication of resources surrounding breathalysers and their truths, as well as establishing the fact that the only way to accurately measure a person’s intoxication level quickly is through a breathalyser.
Accurately being able to measure your BAC level after drinking will help individuals make informed decisions, especially pertaining to whether they can drive safely without running into trouble with the police. However, it remains a fact that the best way to avoid any unwanted collisions on the road is to not drive if you plan to drink.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your business’s needs.
Written by Andatech Pty Ltd